Camden school facilities study moves forward


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, April 15, 2019

CAMDEN — A school facility study that Camden officials hope will shed light on the need to build a new school has a green light to start now that the Camden Board of Education has agreed to pay half the study’s cost.

The school board voted unanimously Thursday night to pay $12,500 toward the $25,000 cost of a comprehensive facility study that county officials want conducted prior to committing funds to build a new high school.

The funds will come from the school district’s capital outlay fund balance.

“I think the board supports that pretty strongly,” Camden Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell said Friday.

The study will be helpful because it will provide “real information on the possibility of a new school,” according to Ferrell.

School officials have expressed a strong interest in building a new high school. County officials have shown some support for the idea but also have insisted that, before they put a bond referendum before voters to finance the project, they need more information about projected student growth numbers and other details.

The Camden Board of Commissioners voted at a meeting with the school board on March 28 to pay half the cost of the study if the school board agreed to fund the other half.

The study will be conducted by M.B. Kahn Construction. Bill Cram of M.B. Kahn has informed officials that the study would look at both physical and educational capacity, estimated costs, demographic information, options for financing, and what should be done with the existing high school campus if a new high school is built. Cram said the firm would be paid on a fee-per-hour basis not to exceed $25,000.

Cram said the study could be completed by June 30, which would enable officials to incorporate the study’s findings into an application for a second-round grant from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. Camden was awarded $2.7 million in the fund’s first round and is eligible for up to $12.3 million in the second round.

Architect Jimmy Hite presented to county and school officials at the joint meeting what he called a very tentative cost estimate of $35.1 million to build a 147,000-square-foot high school on a site the county already owns.